(PHOTO/ Chris Wallace)
Sophomore quarterback Jacob Free lobs a pass to a Trojan receiver during one of the final practices before Saturday’s season opener.
The Troy football team begins its 2019 campaign on Saturday evening at Veterans Memorial Stadium against the Campbell Camels from the Big South Division of the FCS.
“We’re looking forward to getting on the field Saturday,” Troy Head Coach Chip Lindsey said. “Campbell is a good looking football team, and they’re coming in ready to play.”
Troy is entering the 2019 season coming off its third 10-win season in a row. The program enters a new era under Lindsey after the departure of former head coach Neal Brown.
“I take a lot of pride in being the head coach here,” Lindsey said. “Troy gave me my first opportunity to be an FBS head football coach.
“It’s an honor to lead this team onto the field.”
The Campbell Camels enter their seventh season with Mike Minter as head coach.
Minter, who played college football at Nebraska, played in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers before becoming the Campbell head coach.
Campbell is entering 2019 in just its second season as a scholarship program. The Camels went 6-5 in their first scholarship season a year ago.
Last season, Campbell led the FCS in passing yards allowed per game, allowing just 122.5 yards through the air per game.
The team ranked 25th in the FCS in total defense, giving up 335 yards per game.
The matchup between Troy’s offense and Campbell’s secondary will be one of the key points to watch on Saturday.
Senior quarterback Kaleb Barker is coming off a 2018 campaign cut short due to injury.
Before the injury, Barker was having an efficient season.
His 73% completion percentage is a set record for any player with at least 100 attempts in a season.
On the lineup, Barker will be accompanied by senior running back B.J. Smith, who was picked as the preseason Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Smith is coming off a breakout 2018 campaign in which he accumulated 1,186 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
Another key matchup to watch will be the Troy defensive line versus the Campbell offensive line.
The Camels allowed just 0.82 sacks per game last season, which was good enough to finish sixth in the FCS last season.
Troy accumulated 39 sacks last season and averaged 3.0 per game to be one of the best teams in the Sun Belt Conference at attacking the opposing quarterback.
The Trojans lineup, however, will be missing seniors Hunter Reese and Trevon Sanders, both of who combined for 9.5 sacks last season.
But the team will see the return of Jarvis Hayes, Carlton Martial, Marcus Webb, Will Sunderland, Will Choloh and more.
The defensive front seven has been one of Troy’s strongest units in the last few seasons, especially the run defense game.
Last season, the Trojans allowed 128.7 yards per game on the ground, which ranked 23rd nationally and second to Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Conference.
Troy is favored by about 35 points for Saturday night’s game, and the combined number of points is projected to be about 49 points, according to Odds Shark, an online game predictor.
The first game of the season might be tough for offenses, and with both teams having strong defenses, the game could be a low-scoring affair.
In the last three seasons, Troy has averaged 30 points in the opening game of the season with two of the games against Boise State.
The last time Troy opened the season against an FCS team was a 57-17 win over Austin Peay in 2016.
Troy has averaged 48.5 points per game against FCS opponents in the last four seasons while giving up 11.8 points per game. The game kicks off on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The game can be viewed at home on ESPN+.